“What are you doing for Seder?” As I traveled in Israel last week, the topic of Passover gatherings punctuated small talk between the Americans and the Israelis I visited. Our assistant director, Rebecca “B” Copeland and I just got back from Tel Aviv after meeting and training our summer Israeli staff – The “Mishalachat.” THEY ARE AWESOME! Of course, we shared our hosting plans, but more meaningfully, we traded family traditions, descriptions of recipes, and memories of Seders past. We remembered how connected we really are as a Jewish people, even though at times, it may not feel so.
Celebrating Passover at a Seder meal is actually one of the two most common actions that Jews around the world do each year (the other is fasting on Yom Kippur). And yet, for each of our Camp Wise families, this Passover tradition looks and feels different. Some of us use the Haggadah and read the Passover story in full, for others we gather with family and have our fill of soup! And maybe a few of our Camp Wise families just smile as we see the matzah on the supermarket shelf and remember what this humble bread symbolizes – our freedom. All of this is ok.
One of the most meaningful parts of being in the Camp Wise community is that we respect one another’s Jewish and family traditions. Whether or not we attend a synagogue, have parents who are interfaith or are both Jewish, believe in God or not, or will study to become B’nei mitzvah at 13 or choose to do this later in life – all of this is ok! It’s accepted, and celebrated. We also learn from our staff members from Israel about their traditions and about different cultures through our International staff from around the world for whom Judaism represents a new set of values for them.
At Passover, our inclusive ideal rings true as well. At the Seder, our task is to see ourselves as if we each were redeemed from Egypt, too. We open the door to welcome Elijah – and especially to welcome guests! Some families even set an empty place to remind us of people who are ever in need of food and shelter. Later in the Exodus story, as the Israelites received the law, the rabbis teach that every Jewish soul past, present and future is standing at Sinai, too.
As we build our staff and camper community toward Camp Wise’s 116th summer (the best summer ever, right?), Passover is the perfect for us to remember and live out our value of inclusion and welcoming, Hachnasat Orchim. Text a friend you’ve not seen since last summer and reconnect, invite a new camper over for a play date and help them get excited for summer, reach out to someone you think may love Camp Wise, but who has never given it a try. Invite them in! May this Passover remind us of the power we each have to work towards true freedom by building an inclusive and welcoming community for all!